Pancreatic Enzymes Vs Digestive Enzymes: Know the Differences

Pancreatic Enzymes Vs Digestive Enzymes: Digestive Enzymes are a broad word that refers to a multitude of enzymes generated throughout your digestive system, from the salivary glands in your mouth to the cells that line your stomach and small intestine. However, the pancreas serves as a digestive enzyme powerhouse. It generates enzymes such as amylase, lipase, and protease, which degrade carbs, lipids, and proteins into smaller molecules that your body can readily absorb and use for energy and other necessary tasks. Pancreatic enzymes, on the other hand, are a type of digestive enzyme generated entirely by the pancreas. They are critical for appropriate digestion, and when the pancreas isn't making enough of them owing to illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic enzyme replacement treatment can be lifesaver. In essence, Pancreatic Enzymes are a specialized subset of the broader category of digestive enzymes.

Difference Between Pancreatic Enzymes and Digestive Enzymes

Pancreatic enzymes and digestive enzymes both play crucial roles in the digestion of food within the human body, but they differ in terms of origin, function, and specificity. Highlighting are the key differences between pancreatic enzymes and digestive enzymes:


Pancreatic Enzymes

Digestive Enzymes


Secreted by the pancreas

Produced by various organs including pancreas, salivary glands, stomach, and small intestine


Lipase, protease, amylase

Lipases, proteases, amylases, maltase, lactase, sucrase, etc.


Primarily into the small intestine

Into different parts of the digestive tract


Often secreted in inactive forms

Can be secreted in inactive forms requiring activation


Break down fats, proteins, carbohydrates

Act at different stages of digestion

Location of Action

Mainly in the small intestine

Various parts including mouth, stomach, small intestine


Specific targets (lipids, proteins, carbs)

Specific with broader range of substrates


Hormonal signals (CCK, secretin)

Hormones, neural signals, local factors

Associated Conditions

E.g., exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

E.g., lactose intolerance, enzyme deficiencies

Medical Use

Therapeutic in conditions like EPI

Supplements for enzyme deficiencies or digestive disorders

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What are Pancreatic Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzymes, a kind of digestive enzyme, are essential for normal digestion. They have a role in the small intestine, breaking down complex nutrients for absorption. If your pancreas does not produce enough pancreatic enzymes, you may require supplements to improve digestion.

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Key Features of Pancreatic Enzymes:

  • Produced by the pancreas, an organ located beneath the stomach.
  • The small intestine digests complex carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Amylase, trypsin, and lipase are all important enzymes.
  • When food enters the stomach and passes via the pancreatic ducts, it is released into the small intestine.
  • Required for optimal digestion and nutrition absorption. Deficiencies can result in digestive issues such as malabsorption, which causes gas, bloating, and greasy stool.

What are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are a wide name encompassing proteins produced throughout the digestive system, including the mouth, stomach, and pancreas. They break down food into tiny molecules that the body can absorb. The pancreas is the pancreatic enzyme powerhouse, generating essential enzymes that break down carbs, lipids, and proteins.

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Key Features of Digestive Enzymes:

  • Produced by several organs and glands along the digestive route, including the salivary glands, stomach, and small intestine.
  • Break down particular food components as they pass through the digestive system. Examples include salivary amylase (starches in the mouth), pepsin (proteins in the stomach), and lactase (lactose sugar in the small intestine).
  • Already active or will become active in their specialised habitats within the digestive tract (for example, pepsin in an acidic stomach).
  • Frequently found in dietary supplements designed to improve digestion, especially for people who experience periodic digestive difficulties such as bloating or gas.

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Similarities Between Pancreatic Enzymes and Digestive Enzymes

  • During digestion, both pancreatic and digestive enzymes are important for breaking down food molecules into absorbable nutrients.
  • Both types of enzymes catalyse biological processes, which help to break down complex compounds into simpler ones.
  • Both types of enzymes are necessary for the absorption of nutrients including carbs, proteins, and lipids into the circulation.
  • Dysfunction or deficit in pancreatic or digestive enzymes can cause digestive issues and nutritional malabsorption, affecting general health.
  • Hormonal signals can modulate pancreatic and digestive enzyme release, resulting in coordinated digestion in response to food intake.
  • Individuals with enzyme deficits or digestive issues might take pancreatic enzyme supplements or digestive enzyme supplements to help with digestion and nutrition absorption.

In a nutshell, digestive enzymes encompass a wider range of enzymes produced throughout the digestive system, with the pancreas acting as the major contributor. Pancreatic enzymes, on the other hand, specifically refer to the powerful enzymes secreted by the pancreas to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. While both play a crucial role in digestion, pancreatic enzymes are often prescribed to address specific deficiencies caused by medical conditions.


What are Pancreatic Enzymes, and how do they differ from Digestive Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzymes are produced by the pancreas and play a crucial role in breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the small intestine. On the other hand, digestive enzymes are produced by various glands in the body, including the salivary glands, stomach, and small intestine, aiding in the digestion process. While pancreatic enzymes primarily focus on digesting nutrients in the small intestine, digestive enzymes function throughout the digestive tract.

What are the similarities between Pancreatic Enzymes and Digestive Enzymes?

Both pancreatic enzymes and digestive enzymes are essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. They help break down complex food molecules into simpler forms that the body can absorb and utilize for energy, growth, and repair.

How do Pancreatic Enzymes and Digestive Enzymes differ in function?

Pancreatic enzymes specifically target macronutrients like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, while digestive enzymes have a broader spectrum of action, targeting various types of nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fibers.

What are the key features of Pancreatic Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzymes include lipase, protease, and amylase, each responsible for breaking down specific nutrients. Lipase breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol, protease breaks down proteins into amino acids, and amylase breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose.

What are the key features of Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes encompass a wide range of enzymes, including amylase, protease, lipase, lactase, and others, each targeting different types of nutrients at various stages of digestion. For instance, amylase breaks down carbohydrates, protease breaks down proteins, and lipase breaks down fats.